Worcester 11 Bristol 41: Salter worsens Worcester's wounds

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The Independent Online

Bristol ran in five tries at Sixways to make Worcester's chances of achieving something this season seem a distant hope. The home side never once got on top of the Bristol pack, and by the end their forwards were demoralised and deadened. Bristol, by comparison, were thoroughbreds throughout.

Bristol's coach, Richard Hill, speaking about his new centre pairing of Andy Reay and Rob Higgitt, said: "Obviously Sam Cox and Brian Lima could have featured alongside Andy Reay but I've confidence in the squad and we can cope with these things. It's up to those coming in to perform.

"We're not a team that relies on one or two special players to provide a spark. Missing one or two isn't vital, we work as a team, and all our squad members know our system pretty well and can slot in.''

Hill had no need to worry. Bristol were in the groove from the start. Given their first penalty they went for a line-out and drive. That earned no reward, but at the next breakdown Jason Strange - the Premiership's top penalty-kicker last season - banged over a shot from 25 metres. His side having had all the early play, with Worcester trapped in their own half, Strange then thumped over a second.

On a rare Worcester visit to the Bristol half Shane Drahm reduced the visitors' advantage by three points, but a handling mistake was then gathered by Reay, who fed Joe El Abd, who found Gareth Llewellyn at his shoulder for a smart try. Strange converted.

Back came Worcester, with Drahm collecting a second penalty, but Lee Robinson was soon Bristol's second try-scorer. Before the half was out Phil Murphy barged across for a Worcester try, but Drahm missed the conversion to leave his side 18-11 down.

Strange wasted opportunities to increase Bristol's lead when he failed with two early second-half penalties. The feeling persisted that Bristol were in danger of squandering their lead without their captain, Matt Salter, who was shown a yellow card for an offence at a line-out.

Things were looking thin for the visitors, but with Salter back on the field Strange collected two more penalties to make it 24-11. Surely they were not going to fail from here, and Robinson made sure with his second touchdown. Craig Morgan added the fourth to earn Bristol a try-scoring bonus point, and Shaun Perry collected the fifth try.

Worcester: L Best; T Delport, D Rasmussen, S Whatling (M Powell, 60), M Garvey; S Drahm, N Runciman (R Powell, 28); L Fortey, C Fortey (B Gotting, 54), C Horsman (T Taumoepeau, 59), R Blaze (C Gillies, 56), P Murphy, P Sanderson (capt), K Horstmann, T Harding (T Taumoepeau, 55-57).

Bristol: J Taumalolo (D Gray, 76), L Robinson, R Higgitt, A Reay, C Morgan (W Pozzebon, 75); J Strange, S Perry; D Hilton (A Clarke, 71), M Regan (D Blaney, 71), D Crompton, R Winters, G Llewellyn, M Salter (capt; A To'oala, 71), D Ward-Smith (G Lewis 32), J El Abd.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).